10 March 2013

Deafening silence from Dunners

Coucou Pascale!
Here I am at last at 10.45 on Sunday night so I'll keep it brief. I did appreciate the tisane and I have been thinking of you and Back to the Drawing Board in my precious few moments of brain space. The Dephic Oracle's 'Know Thyself' is never more true than at the moment. I had an exceptionally busy end of week, cranking up to 6 periods on Friday and 4 hours talking to parents of students I didn't yet know on Thursday evening. Needless to say Friday night and the weekend have been given over to minimal auditory and visual stimulation while I charge my batteries for this week. I've been taming my home space with some plants and other embellishments to make it into my place and going for long walks up hill and down dale. My situation is really lovely with fantastic views over the harbour, sea and the town belt. I feel very fortunate. Looking forward to a visit from you.
I have raised the issue of e-portfolios with our IT guys (in particular the Mac expert) and he (and my HOD) would be delighted to see our department, or some of it, moving in this direction. At a staff meeting on Tues we were discussing the direction that the school's IT focus should be moving and I thought it was the ideal time to mention MyPortfolio. I also said I could recommend the ideal person to come and give us the PD. Schoolwide, I don't think it'll happen immediately as don't forget this is Mainland cheese country, but I'm hopeful that it will sometime this year. Once I feel I'm recovering from information overload, nudge me from time to time and we could even look at a bit of virtual PD to get at least some of my classes developing portfolios.
Thanks for the Virtues of Uncertainty clip. I have what  must be an earlier version because mine isn't exactly the same. Actually I gave it to my HOD to read last week! It summarises very well where he's coming from and there are the Magnificent 8 qualities up in lights. I'm looking forward to discussing some of these things with my students.
They are lovely, by the way. It is an environment which is conducive to learning, with smallish classes and everyone with their own laptop. There is an ambiance of mutual respect so I don't anticipate that there will be a lot of classroom management issues.
Now to answer your questions. That's a good way of guaranteeing a response from me!!
What was the best aspect of you first week?
I felt very positive about it. 
 - If you identify one thing that is going to challenge you in the short term, what are you going to do about it?
The immediate challenge is to help the students develop a repertoire of transactional language. This appears to be lacking at all levels. I've made a consistent start on this and am interested to observe that it's the two Y9 classes which have more rapidly adapted and risen to the challenge with relish and gusto. The Y10 and Y11 are slower to take it on board as it hasn't been a feature of their learning. I am selling it as a fantastic opportunity to rapidly increase their fluency, confidence, repertoire in the context of a genuine interaction. 
The second major challenge is that I have 8 classes and must learn their names as quickly as possible. I've used my usual strategy of photographing them holding a name label and I'm happy to say I'm making good progress. As I see the Y11s every day I already know them all. I hope to have the others down by the end of this week. Someone said 'Oh you could ask the office to print you off a class list with photos', but I pointed out that it would work better if I took my own photos. 'On ne connait que les choses que l'on apprivoise' (dit le renard)
 - How is the Wifi? Can you use your phone in class?
Wifi's great. Students can use cellphones to record themselves and make videos. My year 7 German class enjoyed filming themselves doing dialogues with puppets and we then projected them on my humungous screen. It's so easy to incorporate technology in this school. I've arranged for my Year 11 class to link up with the class of my friend Grazina in Lithuania just before Easter. It'll be on skype and will entail exchanging poetry, so we're in the process of preparing for that. The Lithuanians are doing an all-nighter so we can go live. Should be fun. They hope to get a class in France to join up too.
 - Are the systems in place straight forward to pick up?
Yep, pretty much. There seems to be a minimum of meetings and time spent on unnecessary admin. This is because the school employs a fair number of admin people to do these things instead of off-loading it on to the teachers. Only one form period a week, one assembly that the staff have to attend and two optional IT sessions that run from 8.30 - 9.00 (in my room, as it happens!!) So all good there.
 - Can you take some pics of your learning environment (classroom/s) to show me?
I'll try and do that this week. It occurs to me that I could also post students videos on Vimeo or YouTube as long as they're using puppets because you can't see them. I'll think about that one. The other thing is to obtain permission from the parents or the principal and as lots of the students are boarders that might take a bit of time.
Now that I have to get up at 6.45 every morning, I must discipline myself not to burn the midnight oil so I'll say good night. By next weekend I should be thoroughly orientated, I hope, and ready to devote more time to Back to the Drawing Board (once I've done my duty at the school fair on Saturday!).
Have fun in the Naki and Manawatu. I look forward to hearing how it goes.
^. .^


  1. I am super happy to read the description of what appears to be a great school to be in and to hear your enthusiasm (I am not commenting on the new routines but I am pretty sure your lovely personal space is going to help!)
    I am interested to read that the acquisition rates for transactional language vary so much: it is incredible that we as teachers "format" the creature of habit in our students. Hence the urgency to ensure that these "habits' or dispositions are indeed the ones that will benefit them the most! ("magnificent qualities" come to mind!)
    It is fab to read too that ICT integrates pretty seamlessly in what is going in your class and supports students' work. They are working with heaps of tools and sites and certainly producing digitalised items worthy of "archiving" not necessarily to revisit in 10 years time, but so that they can comment on each others' work, see what the others are doing, and generally encourage each other at doing better still next!
    This is where myPortfolio comes in really handy as it aggregates all sources of productions in one place where all can be organised and tagged when/if needed. You can do your feedback too and by leaving a trace it will certainly prompt your students to the next step, they may even comment back with what they are doing next!
    It would be good to see if your students take to using the group forum to communicate in French and to make pages up with the stuff they are creating!
    Yes let's have a myportfolio refresher when you are ready. We wont use skype though because they ve cut the screensharing off the free account (and I don't qualify for an education one!) so it will be on hang out.
    You may want to ask someone at your school if they can recommend a third party app to record your skype conversation with Lithuania. If you are going to do this a few times, your students can revisit and plan what they need for the next session.
    Have you asked at your school, they may already have a parent/student permission for online image? I believe some schools tend to incorporate this with their ICT use policies.
    I look forward to the pics of your classroom! Bon courage pour week 2!

  2. I have skype premium, tee hee, so I should be able to invite several participants although our session with Lithuania shouldn't involve more than three. Should be fine. Hang out will be just the ticket. I'd already forgotten about it since our wee tester chez toi.
    I doubt that they have permission in place for online image as although they've all got laptops there doesn't yet seem to be a lot of innovative stuff happening with them. I may be wrong but this was the impression I got at the staff meeting. They're in the taking-stock-of-where-everyone's-at stage and where-do-we-want-to-go-next. There hasn't been any coherent school-wide initiatives as far as I know.
    I'll post some photos of my classroom for your delectation.


Let's go Back to the Drawing Board!